Mattingly deal already in place
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly, who was introduced Friday as the Dodgers' new manager effective at the end of the season, and general manager Ned Colletti both said the job was bequeathed to Mattingly as part of a new contract he signed as the club's hitting coach last winter.
Mattingly said he signed a three-year contract that would go into effect in 2011 and called for him to remain in his current capacity as hitting coach for the first year, if manager Joe Torre signed a one-year extension, and then take over as manager for the final two years after Torre stepped down. The deal also contained a provision saying if Torre's tenure as manager ended after 2010, Mattingly would manage the club.
Torre told Colletti on Tuesday in San Francisco, in a conversation in the visiting manager's office at AT&T Park, that he plans to step down after the season. At that point, it became automatic that Mattingly would take over, with no negotiations necessary because the deal was already in place.
Mattingly said the deal was agreed upon shortly after -- but not immediately after -- he interviewed for the managerial vacancy with the Cleveland Indians, a job that eventually went to Manny Acta, and declined a chance to interview for the same job with the Washington Nationals, a job that went to Jim Riggleman.
It was around that time last fall that Mattingly met with Colletti and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, whereupon they gave him a message that set in motion what became official on Friday.
"I turned down an opportunity to talk with Washington and I talked with Cleveland; I had a meeting with Mr. McCourt and Ned," Mattingly said. "They knew there were going to be [other teams] wanting to talk to me. But the feeling I got from those conversations made me feel good enough to know they were interested in me, and that was all I needed to hear."
A few weeks after that, Mattingly said, the new contract was negotiated.
The contract made official what had long been assumed. When Torre was hired to manage the club after the 2007 season, Colletti told Torre that in the interest of establishing organizational continuity, he would like for Torre's coaching staff to include a person who would be a logical heir apparent.
"I told Joe I would like to have a successor on the staff," Colletti said. "He said there were a couple of guys he would like to bring with him, and that one of them was Don Mattingly, not only as a coach but as somebody who could one day succeed him."
At the time, Mattingly had just lost out to former Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi, another former Torre coach, for the job of succeeding Torre as manager of the New York Yankees. Mattingly then was hired as the Dodgers hitting coach, but he had to take a temporary leave of absence just before the '08 season began to resolve personal and family matters. Mattingly returned at the All-Star break that year and has been in place ever since.
Shortly after Torre told Colletti of his decision, Colletti informed Mattingly on Tuesday that he would be taking over as manager a year ahead of schedule.
Torre had engaged briefly last spring in negotiations on a one-year contract extension, his thought at the time being that he would manage the Dodgers in 2011, then retire. But those negotiations were placed on hold shortly after the start of spring training and were never revisited. As he nears the end of a season when it appears his run of 14 consecutive playoff appearances as a manager will end -- which ties him with Atlanta's Bobby Cox for tops on the all-time list -- Torre said it became increasingly clear that the time was right for him to step aside.
"The fun of managing is still there," Torre said. "But I was telling somebody the other day, you manage a lot by your instincts. Well, you have to make decisions by your instincts sometimes, too, and I just felt it was time to go."
The Dodgers' disappointing season, and the underachievement of several of the team's key players, clearly took a toll on Torre, who turned 70 in July and is accustomed to managing contending teams. Although the Dodgers got off to a slow start this season, they rallied in May and June and went into the All-Star break 49-39 and just two games behind first place in the National League West, offering hope of what would have been an unprecedented third consecutive postseason appearance for the Dodgers.
But the club lost its first six games coming out of the break and never really recovered.
"Up to the All-Star Game, I was very excited with where we were going," Torre said. "From then on, we really have struggled, and I have struggled to find something to help. With the way the second half has gone, we were at a point where I felt this ballclub needed a different voice, a younger voice, and there is no one whom I feel more secure in turning it over to than Donnie."
One of Mattingly's first and most important tasks will be to assemble a coaching staff, and neither he nor Colletti offered any hints as to who might be on it. Asked whether Mattingly, who has never managed at any level but will manage in the Arizona Fall League after the season, needs an experienced major league manager as his bench coach, Colletti seemed to say that he probably does.
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"I think he needs somebody with experience," Colletti said. "I think most bench coaches have that type of experience."
Bob Schaefer, the Dodgers' bench coach, was Mattingly's first manager in the minor leagues, was hired three years ago on Mattingly's recommendation and has brief experience managing at the major league level, twice filling in as manager of the Kansas City Royals on an interim basis after other managers were fired.
But Schaefer also reportedly clashed with at least one Dodgers player this year, center fielder Matt Kemp, and it is conceivable that Colletti will want Mattingly to have a bench coach with more big league managing experience than Schaefer.
"I'm not going to put a deadline on [assembling a staff]," Colletti said. "It's more important that we get the right staff. We will be in agreement on it. I not going to force somebody on him that he is not comfortable with, and I'm not going to take anybody that I am not comfortable with."
One person who would seem to be a logical fit as hitting coach, a position that will have to be filled because Mattingly is vacating it, is Tim Wallach, the manager of the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate who was the team's hitting coach under manager Jim Tracy in 2004 and '05. Wallach, a former Dodgers player who is spending September with the big league club, also was the subject of speculation as a possible successor to Torre, but Colletti informed him in San Francisco that Mattingly would be taking over.
Wallach also could be a candidate for other major league managerial openings, but it is worth mentioning that his philosophy of hitting virtually mirrors that of Mattingly and Torre, a grind-it-out, team-oriented approach. It stresses forcing the opposing starting pitcher to throw a lot of pitches in hopes of getting him out of the game early so that the opposing manager has no choice but to bring in presumably mediocre middle relievers.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Follow him on Twitter.